Last night, the kids and I rented The Interview online, largely out of curiosity and dislike of bullying. (And also because what other first-run movies are three people going to see for a total of $6.99?) The last thing I expected was to genuinely enjoy it and laugh all the way through. It’s not only very funny, but well-made, with some strong performances and a clever plot.
It begins with a scene from an “entertainment news” show. James Franco, as the slow-witted, overly emotive host, is interviewing Eminem in a parody of celebrity culture. (Eminem, deadpan and ridiculously self-serious, completely holds his end up. If he ever gets tired of rapping, he has a future in comedy.) Seth Rogen, as the director/producer, has some funny lines, but he underplays to balance Franco. It becomes clear that the two are heterosexual life partners, in a way that’s, oddly, played more for sweetness than for laughs.
The first section of the film establishes the characters and builds significant goodwill by being very funny without any questionable political content. It also motivates what’s coming, by showing Rogen’s dissatisfaction with the trash he creates for a living. So when the two learn that Kim Jong Un is a big fan of their show, it’s almost plausible that they’d try to score an interview with him as a way of gaining real news cred. Things get less plausible as they get mixed up with CIA plots, North Korean intrigues, and potential nuclear war, but by this point I was having too good a time to quibble.
The other standout performance is by Randall Park as Kim Jong Un. His Kim is a combination of manipulation and brutality. In order to ensure a sympathetic interview, he befriends Franco by showing his human side. And much of what he shows is (in the world of the film) true; he has to wear the mask of the god-king even if it fits badly, he constantly worries about whether he can live up to the expectations of his father, and he can’t afford ever to show any weakness to anyone. What he’s hiding (and what, of course, eventually comes out) is his willingness to oppress, torture, and kill in order to appear invulnerable.
The conflict between Rogen’s very accurate assessment of Kim and Franco’s rose-colored one is eventually resolved, with lots of dick and fart jokes thrown in for good measure. And by the end, you’ve seen all the cliches you’d expect: good guys win, bad guys are punished, lots of stuff blows up, and Franco’s idiocy turns out to be a more powerful force for good than Rogen’s competence. But getting there is a surprisingly fun ride.
I was worried that the movie would be awful enough that there’d be a plausible case (well, for the conspiracy-minded, anyway) that this was the result of one heck of a complex advertising campaign. (“How will we get Southern Babtists to see this film?”)Report
Personally, I’m not buyin the North Korea link the FBI is selling. However, Demand For ‘The Interview’ Is Shooting Up In North Korea And Its Government Is Freaking Out
Who said art can’t change the world? In response, the NK gummint is taking some radical steps:
the North Korean government has beefed up its border security inspection level, and even told black market dealers to not bring in any kind of US movie for the time being.
That oughta do it!Report
Who do you think did it than? Sony received too much financial damage for this to be a really weird form of advertising campaign for the Interview? The entire thing seems way too subtle for the American intelligence apparatus and not really how the Obama administration handles these things either. North Korea is the only possible party with a plausible motive.Report
Couldn’t it have just been a crew of (or individual) d-bag hackers?Report
Stuff like this:
Pretty much everything I’ve read by folks in the hacking or security business doesn’t think NK was behind the attack. Plus, the initial demands of the hackers made no mention of The Interview one way or the other. Only cash in exchange for not releasing a bunch of “sensitive” data.Report
reports I’m getting indicate it was definitely NK. (though i like the idea I saw proposed that NK had simply hired some Russians — that more accounts for the “lookie, we stole your credit cards” aspect of it all…)
Of course it wasn’t an ad campaign.
You don’t call the FBI over an ad campaign.Report
What “reports” are you getting?Report
what I just said — that it was definitely North Korea’s doing.
But, what the reports say isn’t nearly as interesting as who they’re from…
(not the US government, that’s for damned sure! Nobody I know works for government intelligence… unless you count the CDC)Report
kimmi, I didn’t mean “what is the content of the reports” (I mean, I can read), but the actual reports. Can I find em in the NYT, WSJ, LAT, NBA, SAG…? Can you provide a linky so I don’t have to look for reports that you’re referencing? It’d speed things up a bit since I have no idea what I’m looking for and you – presumably – do.
Unless they’re classified. IF so, I understand.Report
Informal personal interview. So nothing in such credible (and credulous) sources as you’re asking for.
Not exactly classified, but not terribly verbose either.Report
So, who benefits when the FBI accuses North Korea? Especially when the press releases and the stories written about it all carry a hint of “What if they’re in the electric grid?” To some degree North Korea does; threats of asymmetric warfare capabilities require some sort of demonstration to be credible. OTOH, the entire homeland security apparatus, both the government portions and all of the outside consultants, stand to benefit enormously. How big a bureaucracy can be built, and how much profit made, on a trillion-dollar mandated upgrade of US software infrastructure?
Microsoft’s fantasy: 50 million computers that have to be upgraded, and only MS can afford the $100M price tag to pass certification tests.
Microsoft’s nightmare: 50 million computers that have to be upgraded, Windows can’t pass certification, and some chunk of corporate America pops for the $100M to have a version of Linux certified.Report
our electric grid is a shambolic Rube-Goldbergian contraption, a whisper away from a conflagration.
the North Koreans are the LEAST of its issues.
If you’re afraid of nothing else, be afraid of the squirrels!Report
Amazing, Kimmi, amazing. I can’t wait to hear what the voices in your head tell you next.Report
oh, dear, did you think I couldn’t cite public sources?
kimmi, I’m really trying to find a thread of actual reasoning in your comments. I’m failing. Sorry. It’s just effing bizarre.Report
Y’all probably thought I was kidding about Kim being a top-notch performance artist.Report
I’m mentioning two things here — 1) a comment about who’s responsible for the attack on Sony (reasoning is admittedly vague)
2) A comment to Michael about the presumed scariness of North Korea infiltrating our electrical grid. (this I’ve simply cited sources about… 50 power outages due to squirrels…) If my reasoning on this is unclear, please ask.Report
@stillwater, Occam’s Razor suggests that the Kim dynasty is the only logical person to commission the Sony Hack. We know from history that the Kim dynasty is very sensitive and hates being viewed as weak and pathetic. We also know that they also do some bat shit stuff on occasion like the Japanese coastal kidnappings during the 1970s. There isn’t another identifiable group or person with an identifiable motive for the Sony hacks.Report
If you’re being serious in that comment (it reads like snark to me) you ought go read the linky I linketty linked to since you’re begging all the questions the linky actually addresses.
If you’re being snarky, then +1 about the “Kim Dynasty” stuff!Report
There isn’t another identifiable group or person with an identifiable motive for the Sony hacks.
That’s a claim with no support. In fact, given Sony’s history of being hacked, it’s a claim that is unsupportable.Report
Thanks, @kimmi, for demonstrating that you can’t in fact cite a source for your claim.
It’s the Sony tanks all over again (again).Report
Yeah, both your claims are bizarre to me. Well, the first isn’t bizarre, it’s just bizarre that you’d think a private communication suffices to settle the debate over who orchestrated the Sony attack. The second is bizarre because a) you seem to think your response to MC refutes the account he presented, b) it obviously begs the question which he’s providing an account of, and c) MC knows more about the grid than prolly only a handful of people in this country, so the idea that you’re educating him about that grid’s frailties is, like, really bizarre even if it were relevant to the topic.Report
And yet, the grid functions very well almost all of the time. There are only a handful of places where large-scale failures are likely to occur, and those could largely be fixed by the additional of bulk generation and bulk transmission in selected places, and updated procedures. When you read the postmortem on the 2003 NE blackout and the 2011 SW blackout — and both happened in areas that have been in the “add capacity” category for decades — you find out that the fundamental causes of the cascading failures were essentially identical. Too many cooks, each doing it their own way, not telling the other cooks what they’re doing.
Granted, the next 25-30 years are very likely to be ugly given the stresses that are going to be placed on the grid: addition of intermittent renewable sources, retirement of aging nuclear plants, likely forced retirement of many old coal-fired plants, and increasing distances between power sources and demand centers. Some parts of the country will be hit much worse than others. Some of the problem will be national policies that make it hard to deal with the problems. I’ve planned my retirement in a place where I think there’s a fighting chance of maintaining reliable supplies.Report
Good thing that we don’t know of any crazy, untoward or dishonest things done by agents of the United States government. That would certainly complicate the narrative.
Also, I don’t think that you are employing Occam’s Razor correctly. Believing Sony and the FBI is no less complicated and involves no no fewer assumptions that not believing Sony and the FBI. In fact, believing Sony and the FBI would involve, for me, the extra step of trusting the honesty and competence of both organizations a mite more than I already do.Report
credible sources with privileged information. not that hard to fathom.
I think you’re just misreading me, on the second. I’m not disagreeing with MC — simply indulging in a bit of mischevious laughter at the expense of the overly credulous press corps. I’m pretty sure he’s aware of the problems…
Yeah, if we accept that it’s acceptable for major portions of our infrastructure to go offline (or brownout) during peak usage, then we’re doing pretty good. It’s worth exploring whether the extra money we spend to put redundant backups in place would be better spent fixing the primary infrastructure… (Do you have numbers?)Report
credible sources with privileged information. not that hard to fathom.
not really. It would be like Jay claiming he knew some details about the military. He lives in Colorado Springs, it’s not that much of a stretch of the imagination that he’d know someone in the air force. (Now, I’m not saying he’d know classified data or something like that! Just the sort of reasonably normal stuff… like… “pilots plan to fly for Africa if we ever get world war 3″… [that’s an actual example, so it doesn’t fit Colorado Springs terribly well. From a gabby guy stationed in Turkey, where the example fits far better…]).
I haven’t been exactly shy about where I live, and Pittsburgh’s pretty well known for corporate counter-espionage (among other things). [Please don’t draw any assumptions from that — even the obvious.]Report
All I know is that I’ve moved from “the airmen are so young!” to “the captains are so young!”Report
I really, really hope someone has been cataloging these things over the years.Report
Kimmi, in all seriousness, do you even realize how much you come off as a complete nutter? I don’t mean someone who’s crazy fun, but someone who’s locked-in-mom’s-basement-typing-when-the-mittens-are-off crazy.Report
sometimes I’m surprised I’ve actually got citations for some of this stuff… 😉
(yes, this is off-thread).
taking me too seriously is probably a mistake in either your judgement or credulosity.
So, If I don’t expect you to believe me when I say I got home to find blood all over the stainless counter because it’s surprisingly hard to perform surgery on yourself using your off-hand using a goddamned kitchen knife… I wonder, why do I bother saying it?Report
“Who benefits when the FBI accuses North Korea?”
Members of the FBI that had “figure out who did this” as a condition of going on Xmas vacation. If getting the Board to go from red to black is the only metric, dammit, they’ll get the Board to go from red to black.Report
I guess your interest in squirrels makes sense, given their interest in you.Report
The question I would have asked is “Is it acceptable that we have limited blackouts when we operate large portions of the grid at capacity and a major component fails?”
The grid is generation, transmission, and distribution. Do you have something else in mind when you say “spent fixing the primary infrastructure” that is more than increasing the capacity of those three components? I do, actually — things went to hell in the 2011 SW blackout because three entities, managing different sections of the grid, didn’t know what each other were doing. Fixing that particular problem is easy from a technical perspective but hard from a political one. Standard practices, some sensors, a simple network to collect the data, and a high-reliability computer system to make the call would have known that the proper response was not to try to shuttle power around the fault, but to cut off some demand in a specific area — temporary limited blackout rather than cascading failure. But to do that, three private-sector entities and two state PUCs have to give up their authority to manage their network. Politically, “add a third transmission link from A to B” is a whole lot more feasible.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, federal reregulation of how the grid(s) should be run favored fragmented control and relatively local nuke/coal/NG as power sources. This is well suited to the Southeast, Greater Texas, and the old Rust Belt states. Much less so for what New England and the Western Interconnect states are proposing to do.Report
Members of the FBI that had “figure out who did this” as a condition of going on Xmas vacation.
I like this. It makes as much sense as anything I’ve read, and more than a lot of things.Report
It will be tough to beat that classic performance of Kim in Team America. I still get tears in my eyes when I think of how “ronery” he is.Report
Don’t know much about the hacker aspect of all this (outside my baliwick) but here is a good review of the Interview.
That’s quite a good, thoughtful review.Report
Haven’t seen the movie, but I enjoyed that review. Does that fulfill my patriotic duty, by the way?Report
You should at least download it from a torrent. (Watching is optional.)Report
I’ve found the whole Apatow/Rogen/Carell et al universe a uniquely entertaining one. But that’s just me.
I suppose that most of their films are, to some, funny only in the way a well-scripted fart or joint joke can be. Nevertheless, these films, whilst doing the fart/joint thing rather expertly, equally explore almost as expertly some very relevant human themes. (Come to think of it, I might say something similar about Wes Anderson films, too.)
Thanks mucho for your review, @mike-schilling. As much as I instinctively felt I really really wanted to watch The Interview, MSM (and Vox- damn them!) had nearly convinced me I should skip it. You’ve convinced me otherwise. Thanks for that. Really.Report
Occam’s Razor suggests that the Kim dynasty is the only logical person to commission the Sony Hack.
Actually, Occam’s Razor suggests that the source of any particular broad corporate hack is most likely not a state agent. State agents have a particular goal in mind. Run-of-the-mill hackers break in and grab anything they can get their hands on.
There are actually many, many plausible attackers for any corporate target. Many of those plausible attackers will use the same sets of tools, most of which are readily available for folks who look for them, and implementation of the tools doesn’t take a high degree of skill as much as it does time and determination (and poor security protocols on the part of the target, but you can assume those are more or less always the case for every target).
So, sooner or later somebody gets a foot in the door. It used to be downloading a large chunk of data from someplace was itself a difficult task, but storage is cheap and bandwidth isn’t expensive enough to prevent somebody who has a foot in a door at a major corp to grab everything they can get their hands on, as it’s better to grab stuff while your conduit is open and analyze the data and figure out what to do with it later, after the pipe has been found and closed off.
There is no particularly compelling reason to suppose that NK *originated* this hack. Given the general state of IT in NK, I’m at best dubious.
There is some reason to suppose that whoever originated this hack sold certain chunks of whatever they got to folks who have their own agendas, though.Report